Remote Tower Systems (RTS)
Remote Tower Systems are a proposed Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) solution for the National Airspace System (NAS). An RTS may consist of one or more types of optical sensors and displays. RTS provides Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCS) with the visual information they need to supply ATCT services. The optical sensors can include, but are not limited, to optical day/night cameras or infrared/thermal cameras. These sensors will be used to replace the information that controllers presently gather by looking out the windows of traditional ATCTs. Since RTS technology does not require an ATCS to look out of a window overlooking the airport, the display monitor and control equipment can be sited and operated at a location that is off airport grounds.
RTS are used in conjunction with the tower equipment specified in the following documents:
- Advisory Circular (AC) 90-93 contains the operating procedures for non-federal ATCT.
- FAA Order JO 7210.78, Appendix A, contains The Minimum Equipment List (MEL).
This combination of equipment allows ATCS to issue instructions that provide for safe and efficient operations, in accordance with FAA Policy. (FAA Order JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control.)
Manufacturers must submit their proposed RTS designs to the FAA. If the design is eligible for review, we (the FAA) will test it at the agency's William J. Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC) in Atlantic City, N.J. This evaluation will allow us to provide an independent assessment of the system capabilities in a robust operational environment. We will update this website as the evaluation proceeds, as well as when (and if) we issue "FAA System Design Approval (SDA)" for any RTS.
The purpose of the FAA’s RTS Pilot Program is, in part, to explore new concepts and configurations. To that end, we have established a set of draft specifications for RTS. We are updating, improving, and validating those specifications as we continue to explore RTS concepts and airport configurations.
Process Overview: First, we define the concepts and configurations in the Operational Visual Requirements (OVRs). Next, we perform an Operational Safety Assessment (OSA) to identify functional hazards and assess the associated levels of operational risk. We then define Minimum Functional, Performance, and Safety Requirements, to ensure that operational risks are controlled to acceptable levels. Finally, we update the Minimum Technical Requirements to reflect our latest safety requirements.
This is a lengthy process. As a result, the latest document versions are not yet aligned.
Operational Visual Requirements (OVRs) (Draft Version 2.1 – Jan. 10, 2023)
Operational Visual Requirements (OVRs) (PDF) (Draft Version 1.0 – July 5, 2019)
Operational Safety Assessment (OSA) (Version 2.7 - April 1, 2021)
RTS Technical Requirements (Draft Version 4.0 – February 2023)
Advisory Circular (Draft Version 3.0 - February 18, 2022)
Concept of Operations (Version 1.0 - April 7, 2020)
Allocation Report: RTS for Non-federal Applications (Version 1.3 – September 16, 2021)
NAS Requirements Document (NAS-RD-2013) - EXCERPT (PDF)
|Single Runway Only||More Complex Environments|
|Draft Advisory Circular||3.0||3.0|
|Concept of Operations||1.0||1.0|
|Draft Operational Visual Requirements||1.0||2.1|
|Operational Safety Assessment||2.7||An updated version is in progress|
|Allocation Report: RTS for Non-federal Applications||1.3|
|Draft RTS Technical Requirements||4.0||An updated version is in progress|
August 23, 2023: Remote Towers Information
FAA held an informational meeting for airports interested in remote towers.
- Event Materials
The FAA may conduct outreach meetings with key RTS vendors, as necessary.
March 16, 2023: Remote Towers Vendor Information Meeting
FAA held an informational meeting with RTS vendors.
- Event Materials
- Briefing (PDF)
July, 2021: Vendor Feedback Meeting
FAA held a vendor feedback meeting with companies that were testing and/or operating RTS.
Note: RTS technology may also be known by the following unofficial terms: Virtual Air Traffic Control Tower, Virtual ATCT, Remote Air Traffic Control Tower, Remote ATCT, Digital Tower.